Acquired Electronics360

Industrial & Medical Technology

LiDAR Improves Rockfall Prediction Analysis

20 April 2017

LiDAR image of cliff. Image credit: Matt O'Banion, courtesy of Oregon State UniversityLiDAR image of cliff. Image credit: Matt O'Banion, courtesy of Oregon State University

A new application of LiDAR technology provides an automated method for analyzing rockfall potential from cliffs and producing risk assessments for roadways faster. The technology directly addresses a major concern for transportation planners worldwide.

Researchers from the University of Washington, Oregon State University and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, teamed up to improve the existing 25-year-old evaluation system. Previously, rockface instability estimation required risky, time- and labor-intensive evaluation of small portions of a cliff face, sometimes including rappelling down face.

The new system, dubbed the “Rockfall Activity Index (RAI)” uses information obtained from LiDAR readings to produce a yearly “energy release” estimate for a given rock face. RAI compilation involves two steps. First, a rock slope is scanned with LiDAR, producing a high-resolution image. Morphological indices—local slope and roughness—are used to classify mass wasting processes underway in the slope. The classifications, combined with estimated instability rates, are used to map rockfall activity across the slope.

Results from system testing in southern Alaska confirmed that system predictions closely matched actual experience. Although the system is ready to use today; the research team continues to develop its potential.

The RAI addresses a multi-million dollar global problem. “Transportation agencies and infrastructure providers are increasingly seeking ways to improve the reliability and safety of their systems, while at the same time reducing costs,” said Joe Wartman, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Washington. “As a low-cost, high-resolution landslide hazard assessment system, our rockfall activity index methodology makes a significant step toward improving both protection and efficiency.”

Powered by CR4, the Engineering Community

Discussion – 0 comments

By posting a comment you confirm that you have read and accept our Posting Rules and Terms of Use.
Engineering Newsletter Signup
Get the Engineering360
Stay up to date on:
Features the top stories, latest news, charts, insights and more on the end-to-end electronics value chain.
Weekly Newsletter
Get news, research, and analysis
on the Electronics industry in your
inbox every week - for FREE
Sign up for our FREE eNewsletter


Date Event Location
22-24 May 2018 Los Angeles, CA
04-07 Jun 2018 Boston, MA
06-08 Jun 2018 Los Angeles, CA
18-22 Jun 2018 Honolulu, Hawaii
12-16 Aug 2018 Vancouver, Canada
Find Free Electronics Datasheets